With all the hype about how probiotics are the “new health miracle”, you might be wondering if it’s nothing more than a New Age gimmick, but did you know that the word “probiotic” actually means “for life” and these little microorganisms can be powerful enough to knock the socks off of some serious ailments? Not only do probiotics help to prevent disease, but they offer a multitude of health benefits as well.
The Importance of Probiotics in Health
We all know that bacteria are famous for causing disease, so the thought of tossing a few extra billion a day to promote better health can be somewhat hard to swallow. It’s important to remember, however, that not all bacteria are created equally. While an overload of certain types of bacteria (harmful bacteria) can definitely cause some serious health issues, the introduction of what we commonly refer to as good bacteria (probiotics) can not only counteract the effects of these harmful microorganisms, but can improve your overall health as well. What are some of the health benefits probiotics offer? Let’s take a look.
Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease
A variety of studies have indicated that probiotics may increase the duration of remission in patients who are suffering from ulcerative colitis, and may even prevent relapse of Crohn’s disease.
Much like the intestinal tract, the vagina is a delicately balanced ecosystem that includes both good and bad bacteria. This system can be thrown out of whack by things like birth control pills, certain antibiotics, spermicides and even having diabetes. Probiotics help to restore the balance of microflora, and prevent or protect against such ailments yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis and even urinary tract infections.
Recent studies have indicated that certain strains of probiotics that are commonly found in dairy products and meats (Lactobacillus reuteri) can actually lower levels of LDL- the bad cholesterol in your body- by an average of 12%.
Healthier Teeth and Gums
Recent findings suggest that Lactobacillus reuteri can not only kill the bacteria that causes tooth decay, but can reduce the harmful effects of gingivitis as well.
Diarrhea can be both uncomfortable and embarrassing. Thankfully, the consumption of probiotics can cause a reduction in episodes of diarrhea. Additionally, a recent study revealed that individuals who took probiotics with their antibiotic were 42% less likely to suffer from diarrhea than those who took antibiotics alone.
Researchers have concluded that probiotics can help to reduce the risk of developing upper respiratory infections by approximately 17%.
Immune System Boost
Claims that probiotics can actually boost the immune system have been substantiated by the results of research. Participants in the study who consumed probiotics developed approximately 40% fewer colds and gastrointestinal infections than those who took a placebo instead.
Although it is true that probiotics may not be that miracle cure everyone has been looking for, they certainly offer a multitude of health benefits. Since the consumption of probiotics definitely can’t hurt, it might be a good idea to try them and see how your own body reacts. In addition to probiotics that are offered over the counter in supplement form, you can get your daily dose in a variety of foods that you consume as well. Foods like yogurt, kimchi, miso soup, sauerkraut and even common green pickles are excellent food sources of probiotics.
If you choose to take an over the counter supplement to get your daily dose of probiotics, be sure to read the list of ingredients, and as always, let your physician know about any supplements you regularly consume.